tv Meet the Press MSNBC December 11, 2011 2:00pm-3:00pm EST
this sunday, about last night in iowa. >> the only reason we didn't get a career politician is he lost to ted kennedy in 1994. >> i'm not a bomb thrower, rhetorically or literally. >> the republicans square off just 23 days before the caucuses. candidate ron paul joins me to discuss the latest gop front-runner newt gingrich. plus, his own prospects in the state where he's now polling in the top tier. could paul be the upset winner? then, what's driving this presidential election? the payroll tax debate grips washington, but, president obama argued this week income equality is the larger issue. >> this is the defining issue of our time. this is a make-or-break moment
for the middle class. >> a debate this morning. with us, the majority leader of the senate senator chris bourbon, democrat of illinois. and senator lindsey graham, republican of south carolina. finally, our political roundtable, on what's changed in the gop race for the white house this week, and what distinguishes romney from gingrich. with us, special correspondent ted koppel, republican strategist, alex castellanos. nbc's senior investigative correspondent lisa myers. and nbc's chief white house correspondent chuck todd. also joining the conversation this morning, iowa's republican governor, terry branstad. good morning. what a difference a month makes. newt gingrich is now the undisputed front-runner in the republican race, he's atop the polls in iowa and new hampshire,
and look at this. this morning we have new results from our nbc maris poll, south carolina and florida. it is gingrich going away in both of those states. as the front-runner, gingrich bore the brunt of the attacks in last night's republican debate in iowa and here with us live this morning, dr. ron paul, the texas congressman and candidate for president, of course. dr. paul, welcome back to the program. >> thank you, david. good to be with you. >> did newt gingrich do anything to diminish his chances in iowa last night? >> wel i don't know whether he did it, but i think because he had to face a lot of serious questions about, you know, his change in positions and what he has to defend, i would think that he shouldn't have gained from that, but that remains to be seen. i guess somebody's going to do a poll rather quickly. but, you know, we've had people, you know, leading the pack off and on this whole past year, so it will be interesting to see just what happens. in the next week or two.
>> the question of who's the consistent conservative, the issue of him receiving payments from freddie mac, the mortgage giant. this was the subject of where you took him on last night, and his response. watch. >> he's been on different positions, you know, on some of the issues. single payer. he's taken some positions that are not conservative. he supported the t.a.r.p. fund. and the other thing, really, which really should have annoyed a lot of people, he received a lot of money from freddie mac. in a way, newt, i think you probably got some of our taxpayers money. they got money and they're still getting bailed out. you're a spokesman for them, and you received money for it. >> i was never a spokesman for any agency. i never did any lobbying for the agency. i offered strategic advice. i was in the private sector. and i was doing things in the private sector. >> congressman paul, this week you said that gingrich should apologize for taking that money. are you satisfied with how he answered that last night? >> no, not really.
but what can you do in politics. that's the best he could do with it. but the crowd didn't welcome his answer very well because obviously it is seen as being playing a role of influence. and a lot of money -- what was it, $1.6 million that he received. this is the epitome of the bailouts and the problems. knowing me a little bit more because it was a subject i had worked on for so long, having been on the financial services committee. and deals so much in the formation of bubbles and why we have distortions and why we have recessions. so this was rather annoying. then we also, you know, tried to make the point, well, it's the federal reserve that causes the business cycle. which is correct. but i'll tell you what. when you make the credit, somebody has to distribute it and somebody has to benefit. and it was fannie mae and freddie mac and they're still in business of receiving taxpayers money. it's a deeply flawed system. you can't expect a housing bubble and a correction from
that to rekofl itself until we look at this in a more serious manner. >> but just to pin you down on this because you were very direct about this this week. should he give the money back? should he apologize for receiving the money from freddie mac? >> well, legally, he doesn't have to. but i would think morally, him having received this money, yeah, i wouldn't -- i wouldn't have taken their money. you know, just for the fact that i think it was an immoral thing to take money. besides i don't like this idea that you're going to influence somebody that is a pseudo government agency. and this was my argument over the many years that because they got subsidies and they had a line of credit and they were guaranteed a bailout, it was written all over that this would come about because it was artificial, there was a line of credit, and the fed was involved. so it was, as far as i'm concerned, about as close to the government as you can get. to call that private is not
exactly accurate. >> let's come back to the key point in the debate last night. who is the consistent conservative? the issue came up about health care and support for an individual mandate in massachusetts by governor romney, whether he supported it nationally, as is the case in the president's health care legislation, something that newt gingrich supported as well in the early '90s. it was michele bachmann who took them on as whether they're real conservatives, coining the phrase, gnut romney. listen. >> you want a difference, michele bachmann is the proven conservative. it's not newt romney. >> i know newt gingrich, and newt gingrich is a friend of mine. but he and i are not clones. i promise. >> do you buy that? who is the real conservative out those two? you've got to go through one or both of them to win in iowa. >> well, i think they come from the same mold. they're about the same. they're both on the defensive. they're both explaining themselves. and i even said that last night. why should we have a nominee
that's going to spend most of their time explaining themselves and deciding what position they were on and when. i think that's too much on the defensive. and i think, if you're consistent, it speaks for itself. you know, nobody ever challenges me to that. but i don't have to brag about it either because everybody knows exactly what i'm going to do, exactly what i've done for 30 years. so it goes without speaking about it. >> well, but i just want to be clear on this point, you consider both gingrich and romney unacceptable as consistent conservatives? >> well, i would say they're not consistent. i think they more or less admitted that. they've changed their positions. it's not that they're in denial. it's just that they admit that they were on one side of the position here, and on the other side of a position on another time. so i think that's -- i think pretty clearly understood. it's just that, you know, that's not considered, you know, a
litmus test. it seems like people are rather tolerant. he did that ten years ago, but he doesn't do that now. >> congressman, you've been tough up in iowa. you do go after gingrich, flip-flopping, being all over the place on issues, like climate change, when he cut an ad with nancy pelosi. you never specifically go after romney. are you more comfortable with romney as the standard bearer of the party should it come to that, should you not beat him? >> well, i think their philosophies are pretty close. but you know, i think the answer that was given last night, i think romney comes back a little more diplomatic. i think that he handles himself a little differently than newt. and newt, you know, newt's living up to this. matter of fact, he's addressed the subject. he is a very determined person, and can rub people the wrong way. i don't think he's saying that he doesn't do that. i think mitt has a little bit of a more diplomatic tone to his voice. >> so who represents more
change? who represents change in the way that republican primary voters want? >> you mean out of the -- >> out of those two. let's start with the guys you have to go through. >> oh, no. i don't think either one of them represents change. as a matter of fact, i've always categorized all my opponents as fitting into one category. they more or less support the status quo. i mean how many of them are challenging the foreign policy? how many challenge, you know, the monetary system? how many people challenge the welfare system? how many want real cuts? nobody else is offering real cuts, you know, in spending. and i offer real cuts. so i would say they're all a variation of defending the status quo. and i think that's why there's so much frustration, and people are hopping around, they're looking for somebody, and i think, quite frankly, that might be the reason we're going up in the polls, and you know, we still have a few weeks to go, so we'll have to wait and see what happens. >> let me ask you about foreign policy, since you raised it. last night it was gingrich, who
first made news on saturday by saying the palestinians were, in his words, an invented people. and he defended that last night saying that there are major elements of the palestinian leadership that are committed to israel's destruction, and he added this -- >> somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth. these people are terrorists. they teach terrorism in their schools. they have textbooks that say if there are 13 jews and nine jews are killed, how many jews are left. we pay for those textbooks through our aid money. it's fundamentally time for somebody to have the guts to stand up and say, enough lying about the middle east. >> is that courage? is that speaking the truth? or is that pandering to evangelical christians in iowa? >> ah, well, i think it was purely a political statement, but i think it demonstrates my point and makes my position very clear, that there's -- all the harm done is not only on one side, and that fight has been going on in that part of the world for a long time.
and i remember so clearly what ronald reagan said when he got messed up in lebanon. he said that if he had been more neutral and followed neutrality and had not put those marines in there, those marines would still be alive. in other words, he's saying the politics of that region, these were his words, the politics are irrational. the irrationality of the politics there. and that's why i think it's such a wise thing to do, to follow our founders, and not pretend that we know who the bad people are, and who's saying the bad things, and one side is perfectly pure, and the other side are only the terrorists. a lot of people die over there. a lot of people die on both sides. and i don't think we have the wisdom to sort that out, nor do we have the authority to sort that out, and so put our will. i think that region should be determined by the individuals there. i don't think that israel should ever sacrifice their sovereignty to us, and i think that's what they have done. they can't do much.
they can't defend their borders or design their peace treaties without getting permission from us. and i think we should defend the sovereignty of israel, and not confuse things and make things worse by demagoguing it, and saying exactly who is to blame and who isn't to blame. >> before you go, congressman, let me ask you about the strength of your following. mitt romney acknowledged it last night, saying everywhere he goes in iowa, your supporters are there. and he respects that. if you don't prevail in iowa or don't prevail to get the nomination, will you endorse? >> oh, i have no idea. i'll wait and see about that. it depends on how the platform works out. and, you know, i was bragging a little bit last night when they asked us about our opponents up there, and i was very pleased that some of them are starting to use the language i use. we'll wait and see how things go. since they are willing to change their positions and have in the past, i'll keep my fingers crossed and see what happens.
but my main goal is to look to january 3rd and january 10th, and we're doing well, so it's premature for me to be talking about what i'm going to do after january 10th until we find out exactly how this plays out. >> you have endorsed in the past a libertarian candidate as somebody outside the two-party system. are you ruling out a third-party run at any point? >> i have no plans to do that. >> are you ruling it out? >> i -- i'm not going to rule anything out or anything in. i don't talk in absolutes, and i stated in my position that we really have a very nice campaign going on, and people are recognizing this, and we have thousands of young people now that are campaigning for us, and the turnouts are just fantastic. for me it would be distracting -- >> well, to the point, are you open to a third-party run? >> i am not even thinking about it. >> but you won't rule it out completely.
>> because i have enough on my plate right now. i mean we have a lot of campaigning to do, and we're going to be very, very busy in these next couple weeks. that is what i'm concentrating on. and we're going to see what happens. >> all right, congressman paul, we will be following the debate very closely. thank you so much. >> you're welcome. >> joining me now, assistant majority leader in the senate dick durbin, the democrat of illinois. also lindsey graham, republican of south carolina. welcome to you both. i want to debate income and equality, but senator graham, i want to start with you and talk politics. it's a big focus. you saw that debate last night in iowa, and in your state, as i just referenced a moment ago, it is newt gingrich going away in south carolina, over his rivals romney and ron paul. is he for real? >> yeah. i think if the election were held tomorrow, he'd win south carolina. and i saw bits and pieces of the debate. it's clear to me that newt gingrich has established himself as the republican front-runner, and, yeah, he's for real. >> is he different? you said that you talked to him, you feel like he's different than he was. what's changed?
>> well, you know, last night he took a lot of the shots. i thought he handled it all well. he was very calm. you know, he's been out of government for a long time. he's matured as a person. he's reattached himself to his faith. he seemed to be -- we had a good conversation about energy policy, talked about the past. you know, the coup started in my office, so obviously the guy doesn't hold grudges. i think he's leveled out as a person. and all of us, even critics say newt is a guy that can really hold a room and a very smart fellow, and on his watch. and he and president clinton did some good things together, welfare reform, balancing the budget, so, you know, during his time a lot of good things got done, and he had troubles too. >> quickly before i move on, you led the coup against him as speaker back in the house is what you're referring to. would you endorse him for president now? >> i'm not going to endorse him. but i think he could beat president obama, and i would certainly support him as president if he won the nomination. i think we're in a good spot to win this election. it is our election to lose.
>> will you endorse somebody else -- >> -- policies. >> will you endorse anyone? >> i don't know, david. i don't think so. i really had a real, close relationship with senator mccain. i don't have that with the people in the field. i like them all. i hope ron paul does well. and if he doesn't make it, i hope he'll help us as a party defeat president obama because we can't stand four more year s of the policies that are in place now. so i hope ron paul will help us as a party defeat president obama. >> as opposed to you running as a third party candidate. >> yeah. you know, the ron paul in the party is real. he has a lot of enthusiasm. we're better together. we have a common political desire, and that is to end obama's policies, not four more years of things that are clearly hurting the country. and you're not going to be better off with a second term of obama.
clearly you're not better off, and i don't see any hope of people being better off. and i hope ron paul will help us make that case. >> senator durbin, let me turn to you. again, income equality is a big debate. before we get to the broader points, let's talk about the news. that is the payroll tax cut extension. this is something that republicans and democrats are debating now. is this going to happen? will it get extended? >> i can tell you, david, it's the highest priority of the president and the democrats in congress. we're talking about a payroll tax cut for almost 160 million americans. what it comes down to for the average illinoisan is about $1,000 a year. if congress fails to extend the payroll tax cut, it's a new tax, an added tax next year for average working people. what the president said in kansas really applies to this debate. this is a make-or-break moment for the middle class. and to this point, the republicans have consistently said they will refuse to increase the taxes on the wealthiest people in america one penny, if that's what it takes to make sure that working families get a payroll tax cut. it is a clear, defining moment,
a contrast between the parties, that the president's made clear, and we have said, for example, we will exempt the first million dollars in income for the wealthiest in america and just but a surtax on the second million dollars they earn each year, and the republicans said no. they refuse to allow it -- >> finish your point, senator. >> they refuse to allow us to use this millionaire's surtax, whether it's to save the jobs of teachers and firefighters and policemen, or invest in america, in infrastructure. and what they've said is these are the job creators. in fact, what we know now is that among small business people in america, about 1% make money at this level, $1.5 million a year. so in order to protect that 1% of small business owners -- >> okay. >> -- and to protect the 1% of taxpay taxpayers, they are turning down a tax cut for working families. >> senator graham, republicans in the house are saying if you
want this tax cut extension, you've got to do more. and they talk about the keystone pipeline. let's show the map of this. this would be an oil pipeline that would be extended. it goes from alberta all the way down south and the dotted portion would be the extension. environmentalists are opposed to it, the administration says no, we'll take this up after the election. does this have to be part of the equation to ultimately get a payroll tax cut extension? >> i think the house's package that does extend the payroll tax cuts has a lot of things i would support like the pipeline and other regulatory reform. but at the end of the day the payroll tax will get extended as it is now. it won't get expanded. it will get extended. and we'll find a way to pay for it in a bipartisan fashion. this idea of taxing one group to pay for a tax cut for another is not going to fail. the pipeline's probably not going to fail. and it is important that we extend the tax cut through next year.
but it's even more important we come up with sustainable policies that will turn america around. and this idea, what is a fair share, david? tell me, pick a number. tell me. tell the american people, what should the top income earners, what should the top rate be? pick a number and tell me what's fair. >> let me talk in that vein about the middle class. the fight for the middle class, as the president talked about this week. and so people understand, here are some quick facts that really go to this question of income inequality and the fight for the middle class. on earnings and savings, incomes have stagnated while wealthy incomes have skyrocketed. on housing, equities in home values, half of 2006 levels. when it comes to retirement, a quarter of the poll say they will need to work until at least age 80 to live comfortably in retirement. this is a point the president made this week in kansas. watch. >> but for most americans, the basic bargain that made this country great has eroded. long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for
too many people. fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefited from that success. >> and yet wealthy americans, he went on to say, have gone on to do better. senator graham, is the issue, as the president argued, income inequality? or is it something more fundamental? is it national decline? >> i think the issue is that there's failure -- he's got a failed presidency, and he didn't talk about the things he has done to make america a stronger, better place, in a bipartisan fashion. ronald reagan sat down with tip o'neill to solve the social security problems. bill clinton sat down with newt gingrich to balance the budget and end welfare as we know it. this whole speech is about pitting one group of americans against the others, and his policies are the biggest threat to the hard-working americans. if you're a union guy, the pipeline would be good for you because it would create 20,000
jobs. the nlrb in the hands of this administration, almost cost a facility in south carolina that would have cost 10,000 hard-working south carolinians their jobs because of union politics. the environmental policies of this administration make it very hard to create a job. and you can't borrow anything because of the dodd/frank. the speech -- the speech wasn't about his successes. it's about hard-working americans in class warfare. and i ask the question again, mr. president, what is a fair share? pick a number. tell me how much you want to take in taxes at the top rate. pick a number and let's see if it works. >> all right. senator durbin? >> or solve politics. what is the number? >> david, let me just say that the president has tried for three straight years to work directly with the republicans to solve the problems of this country. even this year, on three different occasions, he has met with speaker boehner and with republican leader kantor to try
to work on a deficit, and each time they walked out on him. this week in the united states -- this last week in the united states senate, as an illustration, on two separate occasions, republicans used the filibuster, something that said they wouldn't do except under extraordinary circumstances, to stop appointment of a woman -- a unanimously well-qualified woman to the u.s. district court in the district of columbia, and to stop the appointment of former ohio attorney general richard cordray to head the consumer financial protection bureau. for the president now to say, listen, you have a clear choice, the republicans will not cooperate to work to move this economy forward, we have got to focus on what the future will be. what the republicans offer us is the same formula that brought us in to this recession. cut taxes on the wealthy and cut that government oversight to make sure that we have clean drinking water, air we can breathe, and make sure that wall street doesn't run washington instead of the other way around.
>> 20 seconds, senator graham, do republicans have a hard time talking about inequality in the country when it comes to incomes and comes to the economy? >> well, that's what keeps america equal to grow the economy. the obama policies have been a miserable failure. they had the congress, a democratic majority. they increased spending by 24%. so this consumer bureau that they want to pass is under the federal reserve, no appropriation oversight, no board. it is something out of the stalinist era. the reason republicans don't want to vote for it is we want a board, not one person, making all the regulatory decisions, and there's no oversight under this person. it's just a check from the federal reserve, we want it under the congress so we can oversee the overseer. here's policies of why hard-working americans are going to lose now, and they will never get better in the second term of obama administration. that's why we're going to win as republicans. >> finally, senator durbin, as you look at the president's prospects, you look at the status of his approval rating, how much of a challenge does he face for re-election?
>> litd >> let me tell you, what the president's done, particularly in the last few months where he has stepped up with a jobs program, supported across the board by the american people, and said to the republicans, either join me in moving america forward and creating jobs, or face the next election for a referendum on whether we're going to return to the failed republican economic policies, i think that is a clear contrast. what he said in kansas brought us back down to basics. this is a make-or-break moment for the middle class in america. >> all right. we're going to leave it there. thanks to both of you. >> david, if i could just add, david the president introduced a budget that got no votes. he's rejected his own fiscal commission. he gave a speech that had nothing to do with turning around the economy. >> that's not accurate. >> he won't tell us what a fair share is. >> the debate will -- >> this is all politics. >> the debate will continue. thank you both very much. coming up, where does the gop race now stand? iowa's republican governor terry branstad is going to join our political roundtable. plus, what happened to mitt
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whee! it's flo time. now, that's progressive. call or click today. we are back with our political roundtable. joinin we are back with our political roundtable. joining me, nbc's senior investigative correspondent lisa myers. she knows a thing or two about newt gingrich, having covered him all those years on capitol hill. chief white house correspondent and political director for nbc news, chuck todd. republican strategist alex castellanos. and special correspondent for nbc's rock center news magazine, ted koppel. what a pleasure to be able to say, nbc's ted koppel. thanks, ted, for being here. and live from des moines, iowa, is iowa's republican governor terry branstad. he was a popular guy last night. if you're running for the
president, you want to get that important nod from the governor of the state. governor, good to have you. we'll be with you in just a moment. chuck todd, this is how it looks in florida and south carolina, as i referenced, we'll put them up on the screen. south carolina first, it is gingrich, going away. lindsey graham said he'd win the election in south carolina if it were today. and in florida, it's gingrich, going away. major moment, of course, the polling, the status of the race, and what happened last night in iowa. here was the moment between romney and gingrich. watch. >> look, the only reason he didn't become a career politician is he lost to teddy kennedy in 1994. >> now, wait a second. now wait a second. the idea that if i'd have beaten ted kennedy i could have been a career politician. that's probably true. if i would have been able to get in the nfl, like i hoped when i was a kid, why i'd have been a football star in my life, too. but i -- but i -- i spent my t. but i -- but i -- i spent my
life in the private sector. losing to teddy kennedy was probably the best thing i could have done for preparing me for the job i'm seeking, because it put me back in the private sector. >> chuck todd, where are we? >> these are a couple of nimble debaters. i think we've seen it. these are the final two. on one-on-one debates, or even three with ron paul, shows that he can give as well as he can take, it's going to be an interesting, long primary campaign if it, indeed, goes long. but i'll tell you, obviously, what we're seeing in the polls, it's instructive that newt gingrich brought up 1994. that is his key strength and it is romney's key issue. what was newt gingrich doing in october of 1994. he was leading a conservative evolution. that's the one big memory. i had a romney person tell me that every negative they try to throw at newt they realize you can't just use one because he has that pristine memory in the minds of conservative voters. well, he did it. what was mitt romney doing in october of 1994? basically saying, i'm not really a republican, massachusetts voters, don't you worry. i'm not that conservative.
not even sure if i voted for reagan or for bush or who i was for back in the '80s. so it's interesting that newt brings up that moment because i think it's a clear ideological contrast. >> lisa myers. >> well, i think clearly governor romney needed to blunt gingrich's moment last night and he didn't accomplish that. this is newt gingrich's wheelhouse. verbal combat. no one is better at it. no one enjoys it more. you know, the key for him is not to appear too mean. not to go totally off message. and he didn't -- neither happened last night. so very successful evening for him. so you know, unfortunately, i think for governor romney, the clip that will be played a lot is him trying to make the $10,000 bet. >> you don't say. here was the fight with rick perry over the individual mandate in health care. watch.
>> i read your first book, and it said in there that your mandate in massachusetts, which should be the model for the country, and i know it came out of the reprint of the book, but you know, i'm just saying, you were for individual mandates, my friend. >> you know what? you've raised that before, rick. it was true then. >> is it true now? >> rick, i'll tell you what, 10,000 bucks, $10,000 bet? >> i'm not in the betting business. >> oh, okay. >> okay. >> well, the average -- annual median income in iowa is less, is only about $50,000, so a $10,000 bet is pretty extraordinary. in fairness we should point out that newt gingrich had a similar moment not that long ago when he said he really didn't need to lobby because he was taking so much money on speeches, charging $60,000 for a speech.
so both republican candidates have given democrats good material for an ad in the fall. >> governor branstad in iowa, it is the fight for your state. what mattered about last night? >> well, i think they all performed very well. the real loser was president obama because his policies have been a disaster. but when you increase the national debt a trillion dollars a year, americans don't want to become the next greece or italy. we want somebody that's going to get america's spending under control and reduce taxes and regulatory burdens, not divide the american people by attacking the entrepreneurs and the people that invest and create jobs. it's a shame the president of the united states appoints the bowles simpson commission and then he walks away from it. he had the opportunity last year in the state of the union address to come up with a plan to reduce spending, and put america on the right track, instead he just is playing politics. the president of the united states ought to be better than
that than divide the american people. we need a leader, somebody that's going to put america back on the right track, somebody like ronald rag p. there's nobody that's perfect. >> so who's like him? who's like him out there? >> well, i think, people like -- first of all, i think each of the candidates had their moment last night and did well. and people like the fact that ronald reagan told it like it was. i was an early reagan supporter here in 1976. i'm proud of the leadership that he provided for this country under the malaise that we were under back under jimmy carter, and we had a president that brought america back and rebuilt our economy, and we need a president that has that kind of courage, not somebody that's going to divide the american people one against the other. we need to reduce the tax and regulatory burden. when i was governor before canada, the canadian dollar was worth 65 cents to the american
dollar and we were able to bring canadian companies here. now the canadian dollar -- >> let me get -- >> -- their financial system is stronger. >> good points, all. i will say that i think governor romney lost a lot more than 10,000 bucks last night and newt gingrich won a lot. why hasn't mitt romney bumped above 25% in these polls? i think we saw it last night. voters think this country is in huge trouble, republicans do, and they want somebody to bring big change. and mitt romney last night said he was a cautious guy. that's how he's been running his campaign all year. he's been saying i'm not going to risk any political capital. i'm going to let the other guys lose. what that does is build a market called resentful dependency. it's like you're the cable company or the power company. when you tell -- you have no choice but to buy from us. you know, take it or leave it. and voters -- >> you want to be nice to cable companies. >> but the problem is, that that makes voters want to tell mitt
romney, oh, yeah, we'll teach you a lesson. last night he gave them an opportunity to do that with an elitist comment. newt gingrich is running, i think, a very -- he's running as the strong guy, not the cautious guy. that means he's going to say your house is burning down, i'm a firefighter. you don't care where i slept last night or what i did. let me put out the fire. you need me on that wall. >> ted koppel, what did you see? >> i hope to invoke the great lily tomlin, david, who once said no matter how cynical i get, i can never keep up. as i watch newt gingrich, and he is doing extraordinarily well, and i think the consensus this morning seems to be that if there was a winner last night, it had to be newt gingrich. the fact that he's been able to overcome all that he seems to be overcoming leaves me absolutely breathless. >> and yet you've heard senator graham say he appears to be a
different guy in some ways. do you hear? do you see the difference in him? >> well, i see the discipline in him, and indeed one of the big rants against gingrich is he gets carried up in his own eloquence sometimes and loses that discipline. last night he was disciplined except for that little wink he throws at the audience every once in a while. >> some of it is not newt gingrich material. he's a 68-year-old grandfather. we hear that all the time. but some of it is, does the country want somebody who's a little imaginative and unpredictable, and will go outside of the box because the problems are so big and demand more than incremental change. >> david, governor branstad -- it sounds like governor branstad is saying he likes that, i don't want to put words in your mouth, you like somebody who is telling it like it is. has mitt romney been too cautious in iowa? >> well, you've got to give ron paul credit for having a plan that's going to get rid of this huge deficit. he's the one that's been very consistent on that.
i think that's one of the reasons he's doing well. the iowa poll shows number one issue is get america spending under control. i, like many other governors, are cutting spending and focusing on reducing taxes and regulations to bring jobs and revitalize our state's economy. the federal government with its high federal tax burden and penalties on business, everything from dodd/frank to the rice rule under the epa is damaging our communities, our businesses, and preventing us from creating jobs out here in the heartland of america. >> governor, about mitt romney. has he been too cautious in iowa? >> yes. and i think he's starting to understand that he's going to have to get much more aggressive. he's going to need to spend more time here. he's opened a campaign office. he was in cedar rapids the day before yesterday. i understand he's going to be back campaigning more aggressively. he's starting to advertise on television. but this is a wide open race in iowa. the lead has changed hands many
times. i think there's still a lot of undecided voters. it could go any way. and, really, people are looking for the strongest and best candidate that will defeat barack obama. >> alex? >> chuck, to your point, the best thing about mitt romney is not that he's been a cautious man. the truth about his success is he's been a transformational figure. he transformed the olympics. he builds companies. transformational change in massachusetts. that's the mitt romney i know. and this campaign, i think, has diminished him by making him smaller than his great gift really reveals. >> there is this attempt at a real contrast. what i thought was another major moment and it wasn't the debate last night, was the contrast romney painted of himself versus gingrich on this issue of gingrich saying that the palestinians were an invented people. watch. >> i will exercise sublime care, stability, i'm not a bomb thrower. rhetorically or literally. >> i think sometimes it is
helpful for the president with the courage to tell the truth, such as with ronald reagan who went around his entire national security apparatus to call the soviet union an evil empire. >> you know, the speaker may carrick tell rise that as courage, but it's also a fact that that's a very popular thing to say to all the evangelicals in iowa. so where he says courage, some people see pander. >> he talks about the palestinians. you go back 100 years. there was no saudi arabia. there was no iraq. there was no jordan. as a historian, i think speaker gingrich needs to be a little more accurate. >> this is newtonian. newt gingrich is radioactive material. if they get too close, he could kill every republican on the ballot. the voters look at it and go, wow, what great power. >> mike murphy tweeted toys in your point, put it up on the screen, mitt, meaning romney, missed an opportunity to clobber
newt as reckless college professor. politics is not a lecture hall. that's the argument he's making is, look, you're president of the united states. you talk like that. you may not pursue the two-state solution, but you're going to roil a region that's already going through revolutionary change. >> david, it's not only that. think about this. newt gingrich was taking a more pro-israeli position than any recent israeli prime minister. there's hardly any leader in israel today who would allow himself or herself with the position that gingrich took last night. >> but i'll tell you this. republican primary voters said the same argument was made at reagan in '79 and '80 both by republicans running against him and democrats ended up running against reagan, you can't say these things, you can't say these things. well, you know, the other part of that clip is when he went out there and called mitt romney timid. here's mitt romney using sobriety and also newt gingrich comes back not only that, i'm sorry i confused -- >> churchill. >> but i think what's instructive is the people who know newt gingrich best, the
people who served with him, do not come down where lindsey graham did this morning. they are quite -- and in all my years covering republican politics i have never heard republicans who knew the potential nominee well speak this poorly of someone. and, yes, he accomplished great things as speaker, but they also remember the chaos, the polarization, the incendiary remarks, and at the end of four years, they believed he had damaged the republican brand and that he had damaged the conservative cause. i mean in that last election, the people, republicans in close districts believed that gingrich had become so radioactive, he cost them ten points. we'll continue with more of these major moments. also the issue of marriage came up at the debate. more with our roundtable right after this. teamwork.
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we're back a we're back at the roundtable. another major moment this week. it happened in the debate. does marriage matter. this was the response. >> i've always kind of been of the opinion that if you cheat on your wife, you'll cheat on your business partner. so i think that issue of fidelity is important. >> i think people have to render judgment. in my case, i said up front openly, i've made mistakes at times. i've had to go to god for
forgiveness. i've had to seek reconciliation. but i'm also a 68-year-old grandfather, and i think people have to measure who i am now and whether i'm a person they can trust. >> lisa myers? >> i thought it was perhaps his best moment of the debate because it was a potentially very difficult moment for him. he acknowledged errors. and i think that's also been his message behind the scenes, not on marriage issues, but that he would, indeed, be a more reliable conservative and he's not as undisciplined and erratic as he was during the four years as speaker. i think it's selling with come conservatives. >> i'm fascinated that he used his age there and using grandfather. almost saying i'm 68, i'm not doing that again. almost saying, i'm not going to do that again. i'm not that guy anymore. i may have been, and it's not just -- it's rare that you see somebody emphasize, he's one of the older presidential candidates we've had that has a real shot at the presidency. so it's interesting that he used his age. >> very effective.
i thought this put him on, hey, i'm on the other side of the divide now. i'm not that old, scary gingrich anymore. there's a cost to it though. if he -- he connects newt gingrich with the old, if he makes another unforced error, if he gets reckless again, then that means this isn't true. and he goes right back to being the same old newt gingrich. can he maintain that discipline for three months? >> another major moment is about foreign policy. republicans accusing this president of appeasement, and there's also the prospect of what happens in iraq, ted koppel. you were there reporting for rock center. as u.s. troops pull out, the u.s. presence is still heavy. you talked about that with our ambassador there. watch. >> i realize you can't go into it in any detail, but i would assume there's a healthy cia mission here. i would assume that jsoc may be active in this country, joint special operations. you've got fbi here. you've got dea here. can you give me sort of a menu
of who all falls under your control? >> you're actually doing pretty well for who i'm authorized to talk about. >> the full interview tomorrow night, on "rock center." your point there, ted, is that we've got a big footprint and a lot could still happen in iraq. >> the point is ron paul was almost right last night. do you remember one of the overlooked points in the debate? he spoke of the 17,000. he spoke about civilian contractors who are still in iraq. we do have 17,000 people still in iraq. they're not all civilian contractors, but a great many of them are. you've got a consulate in basra, a consulate, the one in basra is less than 20 miles from the iranian border. 1,320 americans down there. they are rocketed two or three times a week. they are about as vulnerable as
any americans have been since 1979 in tehran. and if they were to be frontale attacked -- and i'm suggesting that that's not unlikely at all, you're going to see the u.s. military come back in because while the ambassador said, no, no, no we're going to rely on the iraqis to do the job, there is no way that the u.s. military will wait for the iraqis to save those americans, and they're going to need saving. >> we'll come back in just a minute, talk with our remaining moments with our panelists. we look at decision 2012. also, ron paul may be number three in the polls, but he ees number one in the hearts of twitter users. more on that right after this. ♪ [ male announcer ] from our nation's networks... ♪ ...to our city streets... ♪ ...to skies around the world... ♪
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just a couple of moments left with our roundtable. look at en just a couple of moments left with our roundtable. look at trend tracker today. it's what we've been talking about. begin go to the big screen, gingrich fending off attacks, the biggest issue. our trend tracker, romney/perry the $10,000 bet. and paul attacks gingrich as well. i'll do the takeaway bite in just a moment. governor branstad, speaking about ron paul, an interesting fact that came out this week. he has got the most positive sentiment out there on twitter. at 55%, only 15% negative. and it's almost just the reverse when it comes to president obama. real quick, how much of a shot does ron mall -- paul have to be
an upset winner there? >> well, he's got the most bumper stickers. he's got the most yard signs. he's got the most enthusiasm. but i don't know that you can translate that into a victory because remember the caucuses are january 3rd. a lot of the college students will be on their christmas break. so he definitely has a following out here. and i could tell you, there are a lot of young people that are really disappointed with obama. he promised to be somebody that would bring america together, and his campaign is just the opposite. tear people apart, attack people. we need a leader that's going to bring people together. ron paul has been a consistent conservative. you got to give him credit. i have concerns about his foreign policy. >> all right. governor branstad, thank you very much. chuck todd, i won't pull the oochz have much time. but senator lindsey graham, if the election were held tomorrow, sound bite. we don't have much time. but senator lindsey graham, if the election were held tomorrow, newt would win. newt gingrich would win. here's why, a majority of south carolina republican voters believe newt gingrich is a conservative. a majority believe mitt romney is a moderate.
>> if you look at the polling, it actually would be an upset if mitt romney is to win this nomination since a majority of republican voters in new hampshire, iowa, florida, south carolina were moderates. moderates don't win primaries these days. >> thanks to all of you this morning. before we go a quick reminder that i will be moderating the nbc news facebook debate on "meet the press" on february 8th, live from new hampshire. be sure to visit our facebook page to join the conversation, leading up to the debate. that's at facebook.com/meetthepress. ', you can watch our weekly press pass conversation on our blog this morning. i spoke with khalil byrd and elliot ackerman about their efforts to revolutionize the way we nominate presidential candidates by using the power of the internet. it's a very interesting idea. that's on our blog presspass.msnbc.com. that is all for today. we'll be back next week. if it's sunday, it's "meet the press."